Getting Booked at Windy City House Concerts (or not)

Dear Musicians,

I assume that if you have gotten here, you are curious about playing at Windy City House Concerts. Or maybe you are just curious about our booking process. Thank you for your interest. I genuinely appreciate it. If we haven’t met in the real world, I hope we get to. If we know each other, you probably already know all of what follows.

We host only artists we have heard in real life and have gotten to know personally, often over a period of years. We only get to host a small number of the wonderful artists we would like to since we only have 12 shows per year. Obviously, we have to say no to most of the 400+ booking requests we get a year. That means we only get to add artists new to us once or twice a year at most. 

I take booking requests seriously and I subscribe to the philosophy that “no” is the second best answer I can give (something I have heard from many musicians). So I try very hard to be responsive to requests. Unfortunately for me, hosting is not my day job, so it sometimes takes me longer to reply than I want to. It’s also because I actually listen to the music of people who request a booking.

What am I looking for when I audition performers? It’s a subjective version of I’ll know it when I see (and hear) it. It’s the mix of great songwriting, music skills and engaging and moving performance. If you look back through the list of people we have hosted, you’ll get some idea of my taste.

Paul Barker’s advice to first-time attendees of Folk Alliance conferences captures the essence of how artists end up playing our house concert series:

“I am not here to book gigs. I am here to build relationships and the gigs will follow.”

It doesn’t guarantee we’ll do a show, but it won’t happen without the relationship. I still have to get to know and love you and your music.

I attend the Folk Alliance International and FARM (Folk Alliance Regional Midwest) Conferences regularly, so I can see you and we can meet at one of the conferences or if you are playing in Chicago, I may be able to come see and meet you.

If we won’t meet in person, I may see you online via YouTube, Vimeo, Concert Window and the like. We’ll still need to get to know each other, but it can be a start for me to get to know you and your music.

If you are interested in playing our series, please e-mail me at [email protected]

Finally, I am making a request of all performers at Windy City House Concerts, in the spirit of the Community Sings organized by Matt Watroba, to do at least one song in their set as a sing-along. As Matt puts it on his Community Sings page, “Singing is the perfect excuse to lay down the tablet, laptop, or remote control in order to get back in touch with the healing and nurturing aspects of music and community.” As part of building our community of listeners, I want to make a little community singing part of every Windy City House Concert.

Lee Herman

P.S. I totally get that you are a great fit for house concerts (I’m agreeing with that assertion up front) and you have great reviews. You don’t have to give me a big sell — just let me know what you do, make it easy for me to preview your music and be personal and friendly in your request. The rest comes down to what I hear and see in your performance and our building a relationship and me falling in love with your music.

P.P.S. My auditioning toolset (in order of use/preference):

  • Your website (besides background, I presume you have curated great performances you want me to see)

  • YouTube/Vimeo videos of your live performance in the configuration you would perform for our house concert

  • Streaming of your music:

    • Apple Music 

    • Bandcamp or Soundcloud

    • Deezer

    • Spotify

    • Reverbnation

    • Sonicbids

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